Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Post #17 - Vocabulary

I don't know about you, but my students' limited vocabulary astounds me sometimes. I have to constantly remind myself that I have an above-average vocabulary as it is (not to toot my own horn; it's just something people have actually commented on to me!). I'm not expecting regular sentences with 5+ syllable words; I just want them to expand their vocabulary.

Objective: To increase students' vocabulary
Materials: A text you are currently reading

I've done this particular "vocab-grab" exercise before with 5 different classes; it's much more manageable when you're on a block schedule (3 classes instead of 5), but still do-able if you're organized & "with it" enough.

The philosophy of Vocab-Grab is simple: let the students choose the vocabulary! Tell them before you assign a passage - in class or out - that they should make a list of words they don't know as they encounter them while reading. They should also note which page number they find it on. This will come in handy later.

Once you've finished the assigned text (or if it was for homework: The next day,) ask students to share words from their lists. Compose a big list on the board - take all the words they throw out at first. You'll narrow down later. When it comes to parsing, I usually keep only 10 words for a vocabulary "set". If we have more than that, we vote on which words to keep or throw out.

After you compile the list, make note of it for yourself (especially if you have more than one class doing this). Then, hand out the dictionaries and start finding those definitions! If there is more than one definition for a word, look back at the word's context on the page (this is why you'll want them to write down the page #). Discuss which definition you think is most appropriate, and come to an agreement as a class.

They seem to retain the terms longer and really take ownership of them by choosing the words themselves. Sometimes, when we're voting on words to keep or throw out, I play my Teacher's Choice card. They often want to throw out a word that is long or seems to have a difficult spelling. If I think the word is a good one, though, I request (er...demand) that they keep it. The idea here is to learn & stretch ourselves, after all! That sometimes means keeping the hard words. ;)

Source: can't remember

Monday, March 23, 2009

Post #16 - Don't be jealous

I'm on spring break! If it had come one week earlier, I wouldn't have appreciated it as much, and if it had come one week later, I might have been weeping in the corner.

So, here's a discussion question regarding breaks. They're certainly a plus as an educator, but I think anyone who considers him/herself a professional isn't in it for the vacation time. Does it bother you when people make those comments? Maybe they make snippy/bitter remarks about your snow days or summer vacation and it just raises your hackles? Do you respond and politely - but firmly - set them straight? Do you put them in their place with an equally snippy comment? Or do you just let it go?

Another quick question - your summer vacations: do you get bored & take a 2nd job? Or is the summer completely designated as "recovery"?

My response: I haven't yet had anyone make a bitter comment to me about my breaks, but knowing my sharp tongue, I probably wouldn't let them get away with it. I would probably remark that "at least you can go to the bathroom whenever you want" or lay on some guilt trip about being responsible for the academic, emotional, and psychological improvement of 120+ individuals who likely do not appreciate - and do what they can to undermine - your hard work. I usually prefer the non-confrontational route, but if someone makes a smart remark to me first, I usually get my own dig in, too.

As for my summer vacations: no, it's not the reason I got into this biz, but by golly it's MY summer break. I'm willing to attend a conference for professional development, but not for longer than a week. I work my tail off the other part of the year, and that time is for recovery - mental & physical - as well as for next year's preparation. Thankfully, we are not in a position that I need to take a summer job, so I can enjoy doing exactly what I want to do.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Post #15 - Songs & Poetic Devices

Is it just me or is there actually a lot of talk about political education rigmarole right now - more than usual, I mean? It could just be that I never really paid attention, since I was only a student and didn't have much experience (or care). Or perhaps its only natural, with our recent switch to a new administration. Still, I've had a lot of thoughts about education policies, and they're bound to creep in here sooner or later. But for now, let's just ignore all the education hoopla. Let's talk poetic devices.

Objective: Identify poetic devices in contemporary media
Materials: CD/Digital copies of designated songs, copies of lyrics (optional)

How you choose to present these songs is up to you. I've used it as bellwork, part of worksheets, or just a quick 5 minute interlude to the day's poetic device review. All of these songs I had copies of in some capacity (my husband's music library or mine), so I didn't have to do any purchasing, but they (mostly) are not obscure songs - you could find them through ITunes or whatever digital music source you use.

I've listed the songs and the poetic devices they exemplify. If you have more suggestions for this list, please share! (especially for hyperbole)

*songs in gold were added by a reader, Julie, March 2010! Thanks, Julie!
**songs in coral were provided by a friend, Jessica, July 2010, who added a few more categories, branching into other literary devices. Thanks, Jessica!

Metaphor & Simile
"The River" - Garth Brooks (both)
"I'll Be" - Edwin McCain (metaphor)
"You're My Home" - Billy Joel (metaphor)
"The Rose" - Bette Midler (metaphor/simile)
"Legend of Wooley Swamp" - Charlie Daniels Band (also: hyperbole)
"Heat Wave" - Martha and the Vandellas (simile)
"Pump It Up" - Elvis Costello (simile)
"Help Me Mary" - Liz Phair (simile)
"Like A Prayer" - Madonna (simile)
"Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well" - Mike Doughty (simile)
"Umbrella" - Rihanna (both)
"Beast of Burden," The Rolling Stones (metaphor)
"She's a Rainbow," The Rolling Stones (metaphor)
"Supermassive Black Hole," Muse (metaphor)
"Hound Dog," Elvis Presley (metaphor)
"I Wanna Be Your Dog," Iggy Pop (metaphor) (also: tone)
"Co-Pilot," Letters to Cleo (metaphor)

"Just The 2 of Us" - Will Smith

Sounds -Alliteration/Assonance/Consonance
"Black Cat" - Janet Jackson (assonance)
"Higher" - Creed (alliteration/assonance)
"Mary Mac" - Carbon Leaf (alliteration)
"Black Betty" - Ram Jam (alliteration)
"The War Was in Color" - Carbon Leaf (alliteration) (also: imagery)
"19th Nervous Breakdown" - Rolling Stones (consonance)
"How You Remind Me" - Nickelback (alliteration)

"Loving Arms" - Dixie Chicks
"Colors of the Wind" - Pocahontas soundtrack
"The War Was in Color" - Carbon Leaf (also: alliteration)
"Across the Universe" - The Beatles (also: personification)
"Viva La Vida" - Coldplay
"When I Go Away" - Levon Helms
"Shark in the Water" - V.V. Brown
"Burning Love" - Elvis Presley
"White Room" - Eric Clapton

Internal Rhyme
"Back in the Day" - Christina Aguilera

"Wind Cries Mary" - Jimi Hendrix -
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - The Beatles
"Ireland" - Garth Brooks -
"Undo It" - Carrie Underwood
"Trouble is a Friend" - Lenka

"Heart Don't Forget" - Tim McGraw
"In Perfect Time" - Jill Barber
"Lying Eyes" - The Eagles

"The Trolley Song" - Judy Garland (Meet Me in St. Louis)
"Boom, Boom, Pow" - Black Eyed Peas
"Yellow Submarine" - The Beatles
"Paper Planes" - M.I.A.

"We Didn't Start the Fire" - Billy Joel
"Turn! Turn! Turn!" - The Byrds
"Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road" - Elton John
"Love Story" - Taylor Swift
"American Pie" - Don McLean
"Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga
"The Hurricane" - Bob Dylan
"Babies of the 80s" - Something Corporate
"Sympathy for the Devil" - The Rolling Stones (also: personification)
"Alive with the Glory of Love" - Say Anything
"Should've Been a Cowboy" - Toby Keith
"Zombie" - The Cranberries
"Eyes Like Natalie Wood" - Kathy Fleishman

"The Stranger" - Billy Joel
"Only the Good Die Young" - Billy Joel
"Somewhere Down the Road" - Amy Grant
"River of Dreams" - Billy Joel
"Panic" - The Smiths
"My Sweet Fracture" - Saves the Day
"Ain't No Mountain" - duet version
"Ain't No Sunshine" - any version

"Pray for You" - Jaron & The Long Road to Love
"Your Lucky Day in Hell" - Eels
"Makedamnsure" - Taking Back Sunday
"Mad World" - Gary Jules
"Love Will Tear Us Apart" - Joy Division
"Ask" - The Smiths
"LDN" - Lily Allen
"Cruel to be Kind" - Letters to Cleo OR the original

"See You" - Saves the Day
"Never Said" - Liz Phair
"Way Down Here" - Kenny Chesney
"Aladdin Sane" - David Bowie
"Material Girl" - Madonna

"Caught in the Crowd" - Kate Miller-Heidke
"Billie Jean" - Michael Jackson

"Ode to Billie Joe" - Bobbie Gentry
"Breaking Up" - Rilo Kiley
"Paint it Black" - The Rolling Stones
"Love Her Madly" - The Doors
"Three Crosses" - Randy Travis

"Regret" - New Order
"Under My Thumb" - The Rolling Stones
"We Could Be So Good Together" - The Doors
"Born in the USA" - Bruce Springsteen
"Why Can't I Be You?" - The Cure
"Every Breath You Take" - The Police

Short Story Plot Chart
"Folsom Prison Blues" - Johnny Cash
"Last Kiss" - Pearl Jam
"Bohemian Rhapsody" - Queen
"Don't Stop Believing" - Journey
"Watching the Detectives" - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
"My Hometown" - Bruce Springsteen
"The Thunder Rolls" - Garth Brooks
"Maggie May" - Rod Stewart
"Hotel California" - The Eagles
"The Ballad of John & Yoko" - The Beatles

I can't speak to the appropriateness of ALL of these songs, since some I haven't yet heard. So listen and use your best judgment.

source: Gateway Summer Institute & me

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Post #14 - Help!

Opinion - what level of writing do you expect from 10th graders?

This is my second year in "the biz," and since I jumped from standard to honors this year, I'm still trying to discern what is an acceptable level for my students, what is adequately challenging, and what is just honestly too much to expect.

I graded some papers tonight in which they had to respond in only a paragraph to a long answer question. They had to support their opinion using 2 examples from the text. Really, I was looking for structure: a strong topic sentence stating their stance, 2 examples from the text differentiated by transition words, and a strong final sentence concluding the long paragraph by tying it back into the topic sentence. We had done this with the sample literary analysis handout, and I even let them use it on their tests! I warned that I was mostly looking for structure.

Still, I got many students who gave me one example that they didn't strongly connect to their topic and left off a second example. Most of the time those responses supplied one example and then rambled about it for awhile; some reverted to plot summary. Not all are bad - so that gives me hope - but there were enough to frustrate me, and make me wonder...am I expecting too much? Or just enough? Or a little of both?

I am reminding myself that this is only their second year in high school, and perhaps only their second year being asked "why" and "how" questions. (They should be asked earlier, but in our state's education system, I have doubts.) If that is the case, I think that I am challenging them adequately, and I shouldn't be so frustrated. They won't be perfect the first time they dive in. They need to flail a little, test the waters, make mistakes. I certainly won't let them drown! I just can't expect them to develop a perfectly clean backstroke in 9 months.

But what do you think? Other teachers with more experience, especially who have taught different levels, what wisdom can you impart?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Post #13 - Symbolism

Does it annoy you I have seemingly no pattern or themes that tie together one lesson/activity from the next?

It annoys me a little. I would say I am a fairly well-organized teacher, so this haphazard posting disturbs me. Oh well. It builds character.

Objective: Identify and discuss symbols in a literary text; discuss symbols and their meanings in application to theme
Materials: 6-10 children's/picture books, Symbolism handout

This particular offering is an activity - about 20-25 minutes - and not a full lesson. You should preface it with some sort of explanation of symbols & how to find them, of course!

1. Handout the Symbolism worksheet. If you need to save paper, you could have one worksheet for the entire group. I prefer to have each student turn in a paper, since some students put different answers than their groups, and I like to see those (for a variety of reasons).
2. Break students into groups of 3-4.
3. Give each group a children's/picture book that you've selected for symbolic elements.
4. Have groups read their stories and complete the worksheet!

Last year, I had students stand up and introduce book & symbols to their peers, but that didn't work so well. It was a little pointless to talk about certain symbols when not everyone had read the book.

Most of my suggested books are actually from Kim's Korner 4 Teacher Talk; I am only listing ones I've actually used, including ones not on her list that I found. :)

Suggested Picture Books for Teaching Symbolism:

  • Fly Away Home - Eve Bunting
  • So Far From the Sea - Eve Bunting
  • I Have An Olive Tree - Eve Bunting
  • The Yellow Star - Carmen Agra Deedy
  • The Lotus Seed - Sherry Garland
  • The Rag Coat - Lauren A. Mills
  • The Keeping Quilt - Patricia Polacco
  • Tar Beach - Faith Ringgold
  • Grandfather's Journey - Allen Say
  • Home of the Brave - Allen Say
  • The Sneetches - Dr. Seuss
  • The Lorax - Dr. Seuss
(another recommendation I found that I couldn't use because my library didn't have is Chris Van Allsburg's The Wretched Stone - you recognize his name from Jumanjii and The Polar Express. With his track record, I feel confident that's recommendable, though I can't actually vouch from personal experience).

If you already do something like this and have other suggestions for picture books, please let me know!

source: me, with a little inspiration from Kim's Korner

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Post # 12 - Mock Trial

Objectives: To analyze the themes of Antigone through the creation of a mock court trial.
Materials: Handouts explaining roles and court procedures, Internet access, video clip of a court trial.

Our Antigone mock trial has probably been the hit activity of the year! Students loved taking on roles and digging into the characters. By the end of the trial, students really knew the story. They had to, in order to create character testimonies & questions! My offerings here focus on Antigone, but I took some of them from a friend who made them for The Odyssey. Adapt them as you need!

I think the hardest part in any mock trial situation is making sure that each student is doing an equal amount of work. Naturally, the attorneys have probably the greatest amount of pressure, come trial-performance. However, with some careful planning, you can make sure that each student has a role and has something to do. The jury, for instance, can sometimes pose a difficulty in meeting that. I had a teacher-friend who had her jury (for a trial against Odysseus) make a large map charting Odysseus's journey. My jury had to make a newspaper, writing a short article about the "trial starting today." Give them something creative to do and that will make sure that they are working in preparation of the trial as well!

On the first day, I showed a clip of a court trial, so students could see the roles of each courtroom persona. After having students pull their role out of a hat, I played an excerpt of Law & Order:SVU that worked (ok, so I love that show, and it was self-serving). I then handed out Antigone Mock Trial Manual to everyone and we reviewed the outline together.

The next day, I handed out the Antigone Mock Trial Specific Roles & Expectations. Students had all day and the next to work on this. Each role had some sort of paperwork item to turn in. The attorneys each got a copy of the Duties of Prosecution/Defense Attorney from this ReadWriteThink lesson, as well as the Model Defense Handout. I helped out my judge a bit by copy/pasting several helpful websites into one packet: Antigone Mock Trial - Judge Resources. The judge & bailiff could use the packet and the internet for completing Antigone Mock Trial - Judge/Bailiff's Prep Research.

On the day of the trial, the jury received copies of the Jury Verdict Form (ReadWriteThink) - they turned in a paragraph response AND their trial notes. I also graded students on participation. As long as they paid attention, seemed prepared, acted confident and in role, they earned full points. What do you do about those students who were absent during the preparation or trial day? I saved you a little headache and made up some "alternative" make-up activities for those absentees: Antigone Mock Trial - Absent in Prep or Trial. 'Cuz you always have a few.

It was great to see the students get into this lesson. What was also interesting was how they held each other accountable: they weren't afraid to call out other students who didn't do a good enough job. In one particular class, the defense put up an extremely poor show and the jury let them know it! I loved how they took command of their learning through this activity.

For homework, they completed the "Opinion Analysis" of page 21 on this Mock Trial Guide PDF(which is another GREAT resource!).

Learn from my mistakes:
1. The trial took one day, not two. They didn't take as much time for examining witnesses as I'd thought they would.
2. Allow cross-examination. I thought that might be too much for our first foray into courtroom proceedings, but they could have done it. It would have given the trial a bit more depth.  I guess if you do this, you might actually need 2 days after all.
3. Give the judge and bailiff more script to work from. Mine didn't do as much "putting the pieces together" independently as I'd thought. Next time I might give a worksheet that is already integrated with the agenda from the Manual (I had expected them to merge that themselves, but there was some confusion here) with some official proceedings that they can look up online and fill in.
4. Each student can be a character - now, in Antigone, there aren't a lot of characters, so I didn't have enough for every student (largest class is 28). I assigned two students to make one character's testimony; however, I see now that they could have been individual characters and then the attorneys would have had more witnesses to examine.

Hm, let's recap those resources I used & offer to you:
1. Antigone Mock Trial Manual
2. Antigone Mock Trial Specific Roles & Expectations
3. Antigone Mock Trial - Judge Resources
4. Antigone Mock Trial - Judge/Bailiff's Prep Research
5. Antigone Mock Trial - Absent in Prep or Trial
6. ReadWriteThink Lesson: Literary Characters on Trial
- Duties of Prosecution Attorney
- Duties of Defense Attorney
- Model Defense Handout
- Jury Verdict Form
7. Mock Trial Guide - PDF**
- pg. 21 Post-Trial Opinion Analysis

**it would seem that the American Bar Association has overhauled their website since last I checked.  This PDF, as best I can tell, is no longer available.  They DO offer teacher resources, but all for a cost.  I have a different document I can offer instead, that students had to complete for homework: Antigone Final Analysis

Source: me, my SHS co-worker, ReadWriteThink, and MockTrialGuide.pdf

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Post #11 - Let's Talk Semicolons

Objective: To edit run-on sentences and comma splices using semicolons.
Materials: Previously laminated & cut sentences demonstrating comma splices & run ons, envelopes, previously laminated & cut punctuation marks

One of the hardest things for an English teacher is, I think, to come up with lessons that reach those kinesthetic learners. It's sometimes difficult to make the subject - especially grammar - tangible. But I want to reach those kids; I want to give them something they can put their hands on. I frequently try to create grammar activities such as these, where they have to move words around to practice the grammar lesson.

Today's lesson...Semicolons! Sem-ee-colons? Sem-I-colons? Those "j" wannabes.
Here's a word document with teacher notes & student directions for your files.

This will take some planning-period prep (or evening TV-with-hubby-prep, if you have a compatriot willing to wield scissors).
1. Get some sentences students can look at for comma splices/run-ons. I used GrammarBytes!; she has long sentences which are ALWAYS amusing.
2. Laminate the pages and then cut each sentence up into groups of phrases, and separate them into envelopes.
3. Put all the same sentences into separate envelopes labelled #1, #2, etc.
4. Make pages of punctuation marks, laminate, and cut them up. Divide them into envelopes (I used 3 periods, 3 commas, and 2 semicolons in each) that are specially labeled; I colored my envelopes blue, for instance.

Semicolon Lesson/Activity
1. Make sure your students know how a semicolon is used! I gave a brief overview of run-ons, comma splices, fragments, and semicolons. Most of my students had some inkling of what they were, so I didn't have to go in-depth. If this is entirely new for your students, you might need to spend more time on definitions and examples.
2. I used a short .ppt presentation for my review. Robin Simmons at Grammar Bytes! has a great one ready-to-go here.
3. Explain rules to students: each group will get a blue envelope with punctuation marks. They should use these marks to correct the sentences they will receive in white envelopes. First they must put the sentence together in a logical order. They should next use their punctuation marks to correct the sentence. When they think their sentence is correct, raise their hands, and you come and check. If the sentence is right, they should take out their punctuation so they don't accidentally put it into the white envelope, and then put the sentence back in the envelope. After that, they may get the next sentence - mine had to do 5 total, and it took about 20-25 minutes for all groups to finish.
4. Divide them into groups - I would not have more than 4. 3 is probably ideal, but 4 has good participation rates, too.
5. Give each group a blue envelope - I had them count to make sure all the punctuation was there first - and then hand out the white envelopes and let 'em go!

This was really fun for student and teacher! They were really working hard to get those sentences right. I didn't even have a huge reward - a piece of candy for each of the winners - but that competition is enough to get them moving. Follow up the lesson with more practice - maybe a worksheet or writing assignment for homework. Tomorrow we will go over all the sentences again for bellwork.

Again, here's a word document with teacher notes & student directions for your files.

Source: mich! (me, auf deutsch)